Women of Faith who Surround Me

By Cynthia Marroquin-Layton
Abuelita Faith. 
It was an honor to be invited to share about my journey of faith during Maranatha’s chapel last week. I was molded by, and continue to grow through, women of the faith who surround me. Janitors, seamstresses, housekeepers, and homemakers were the practical theologians that shaped me. My journey of faith uniquely allows me to navigate the theology of White evangelicalism along with what Cuban American theologian, Kat Armas, calls an abuelita faith. I have learned from women on the margins about wisdom, persistence, and strength. The way I view Scripture, what it means to know God, and the entirety of my identity is influenced by many factors which reveal new aspects of the Image of God. I do not possess a lofty philosophy on Christian identity formation, but rather an abuelita faith that continuously shapes my relationship with Christ and ultimately impacts my journey of discovering the fullness of the Kingdom of God.

As a young child, my grandmother (or “mami”) played a pivotal role in raising my brother and I. She shaped my spirituality. During hard seasons in my family, my Mami would have us march around the house singing praises because her faith assured her that our hardships would crumble like the walls of Jericho. So my brother and I took up tambourines and sang “Alabaré, Alabaré, Alabaré a mi Señor,” and processed around the perimeter of the house. My theology was not born out of paper commentaries, but of abuelita faith. After attending private Christian school for the majority of my education, I am no longer the same Latina girl from the inner city, but will also never fully be a part of the dominant culture. I became what theologian and artist Makoto Fujimura describes as a mearcstapa, a “border-walker” or “border-stalker”. Fujimura describes border-stalkers in his book, Culture Care, as "individuals who lived on the edges of their groups, going in and out of them, sometimes bringing back news to the tribe.” 

Today, I share the message to young people in my care that I wish I heard during one of my twelve years of forced chapels. I tell them that their ethnic background is part of the Image of God. That their abuelitas, grandmas, tias, and aunties are beautiful reflections of the Imago Dei. I remind them that their journey in navigating the difficulties as a minority and a truth-teller within a dominant culture is a righteous act of resistance. All these border-stalkers usher a more authentic version of the Kingdom of Heaven. Their cultural and ethnic identity, as well as their experiences, are inseparable from the grandeur of the Creator. Adding onto Dr. Layton’s classroom liturgy, they are beloved children of the King on High in all their Latinoness, Blackness, Asianness, Middle Easterners, and biracialism. They are of infinite value and worth and they are called to be a part of God's story of belonging.